Do you have troublesome neighbours?

Paul Smith Lomas
August 14th, 2013

Living in the UK it’s not uncommon to hear of minor disputes between neighbours.  Sometimes it’s about playing loud music, or it might be because a hedge is grown too long. But what if your neighbours arearugam-bay-elephant elephants? While they don’t often play loud music, they rarely respect boundary hedges, and could easily destroy a whole year’s crop for a small scale farmer.

This is exactly the challenge that I found on a recent trip to Batticaloa in Sri Lanka.  A number of farmers were unable to farm their land for fear that the elephants from the nearby forests would trample or eat all their crops. Practical Action had been working with these and other farmers, and when faced with this problem, they came up with an ingenious solution- live fencing made of palmyre trees.

3 row palmyre fenceThe trees are indigenous to the region, and have traditionally been used as a decorative boundary line, but planted in three rows, the trees form a barrier that will stop elephants.

Palmyre tress also provide a harvestable crop (nuts and palm leaves), and once mature, one row at a time can be cut for wood, while still retaining the integrity of the boundary.   It all adds up to a low cost sustainable solution far superior to an electric fence.

I don’t anticipate planting many palmyre fences in my village in the UK, but this story was a great reminder to me how often the simplest locally developed technologies, are often the most effective.

3 Responses to “Do you have troublesome neighbours?”

  1. Ashley Says:

    Really interesting post. I loved how they are using trees and not fencing to keep our the elephants, it’s safer and better for the environment. Thanks for the post.

  2. Marc Says:

    Have you thought of using beehives as well? Elephants don’t like them and they could be put in between the trees, giving the families a chance to become beekeepers and sell their honey. Being from Sri Lanka I know that honey is very expensive there and I reckon they could make some good money with that.

  3. Amanda Ross Says:

    What a good idea! Thanks for that – I’ll pass it on.

    Amanda

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